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SORRELLS V. UNITED STATES, 287 U. S. 435 (1932)

U.S. Supreme Court

Sorrells v. United States, 287 U.S. 435 (1932)

Sorrells v. United States

No. 177

Argued November 8, 1932

Decided December 19, 1932

287 U.S. 435


1. Where application of a penal statute, according to its literal meaning, would produce results contrary to the plain purpose and policy of the enactment, and flagrantly unjust, another construction should be adopted if possible. P. 287 U. S. 446.

2. The National Prohibition Act, though denouncing generally as criminal the sale of intoxicating liquor for beverage purposes, was

Page 287 U. S. 436

not intended to apply where the sale is instigated by a prohibition agent for the purpose of luring a person, otherwise innocent, to the commission of the crime so that he may be arrested and punished. P. 287 U. S. 448.

3. The defense of entrapment cannot be attributed to any power in the courts to grant immunity or defeat prosecution when a penal statute has been violated; it depends upon the scope of the statute alleged to have been violated -- i.e., whether the statute should be construed as intending to apply in the particular case. P. 287 U. S. 449.

4. That the issue of entrapment will involve collateral inquiries as to the activities of government agents and as to the conduct and purposes of the defendant previous to the alleged offense is not a valid reason for rejecting entrapment as a defense. P. 287 U. S. 451.

5. Entrapment is available as a defense under a plea of not guilty; it need not be set up by a special plea in bar. P. 287 U. S. 452.

6. Evidence of entrapment in this case held such that it should have been submitted to the jury. P. 287 U. S. 452.

57 F.2d 973 reversed.

Certiorari to review the affirmance of a sentence for violation of the Prohibition Act. The certiorari was limited to the question whether evidence on the issue of entrapment was sufficient to go to the jury.

Page 287 U. S. 438

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